The state of Maryland has a statute that governs what the court must take into account when assessing the right amount of child support. As a general rule, Maryland presumes these guidelines are correct. However, there are cases when that presumption is rebuttable – but that is a post for another day.
Under Maryland Statute § 12-204, both parents share the duty to support the children of the marriage. The court bases the amount of each parent’s responsibility on each parents’ “adjusted actual incomes” and the amount of custody each party has. Throughout the rest of this post, references to the parents’ financial duties presumes this calculation.
Child Support in General
The courts in Maryland rely on a standard formula for calculating child support. Generally speaking, courts determine child support by looking at the total income of both parents and the number of children of the marriage. Of course, there are times that another method will be more suitable, based on very specific facts and circumstances.
Additional Costs the Court Will Take Into Account
Courts also take into account other expenses. These include health insurance costs, extraordinary medical expenses, and daycare costs. In some cases, the court includes expenses for education and transportation in the support calculation.
Child Support and Health Insurance Costs
The court reviews the actual cost of health insurance for the children. The court splits the cost of health insurance amongst the parents, using the method discussed above.
Extraordinary Medical Expenses
If your child has extraordinary medical expenses, these, too are added to the basic support obligation. The court relies on the actual adjusted income of the parties to split responsibility.
Child Care Expenses
Child care expenses are often determined by reviewing prior child care expenses. Some families have not used child care in the past. In other cases, the court finds the current day care is not in the best interests of the child. In these cases, the court orders child care expenses that provide the child with day care at a licensed business or licensed home day care.
Where the parties agree, the court orders the cost of private school as part of child support. In rare circumstances, the court orders this expense as part of the parties’ support obligation on the court’s own decision.
When the parties agree, the court orders splitting the expenses of transportation between the parents’ home.
Child Support Obligations for Very High Earners and Very Low Earners
Where the parents’ combined income exceeds $15,000 per month, the court uses their judgement to determine the right amount of support for the child or children.
If the combined income of the parents ranges between $100 and $1200 per month, child support ranges between $20 and $150 per month. The court bases the actual amount ordered on three factors. These factors include the parent’s living expenses, the number of children, and the resources the parent has.
The Purpose of Child Support
The statute presumes the total child support received is spent directly on the child or children. Child support is not disposable income for the party receiving child support. In addition, parents cannot privately negotiate a change in the child support amount paid. The court makes child support determinations based on the best interests of the child. The state of Maryland has declared this of “paramount importance.” As such, the parties can’t alter the support obligation on their own.
Changing the Child Support Obligation
Child support obligations are modifiable by order of the court. The court does not entertain just any request for modification, however. Rather, the party making the motion to modify support must show a “material change” in circumstances. The court defines a “material change” as a change that makes a difference to the calculation of child support. For example, if one parent’s income has changed significantly, child support modification requests are reasonable. Not any income change qualifies, however. A 25 % increase or decrease in income provides a reasonable basis for requesting a modification. Note, even with such a change in income, the court retains the discretion to modify the amount of support or not.
Other circumstances reasonably lead to a request for modifications of prior orders. For example, if the child’s needs change significantly, based on illness or disability, modification requests are reasonable.
Furthermore, when the custodial parent’s income changes significantly, modification requests are reasonable in many cases. Because support determinations are made by reviewing the income of both parties, a variation in either party’s income qualifies. The same 25 % guideline applies. Similarly, job loss can result in a modification request, since this has a dramatic impact on combined income.
Finally, when a court sentences a parent to either jail or prison, this suspends child support some of the time. However, Maryland law provides very specific circumstances for the child support obligation to be suspended during incarceration. Assuming the requisite circumstances are met, this waiver extends for the first 60 days after release, as well. Since the facts of each case vary, it is a good idea to consult with a family law attorney to discuss your family’s unique circumstances.
If You Are Considering A Divorce or If You Are Seeking a Modification
If you are considering a divorce, or if you wish to modify a prior child support order, contact the family law attorneys at Fait & DiLima. At Fait & DiLima, we have over 50 years of combined experience preparing child support calculations. We can guide you through the process of requesting child support during your divorce. We can also assist you in seeking a modification of an existing child support order. Contact us to discuss your family’s situation.